PARIS, April 29 The heavyweights of France's
Socialist party shunned disgraced former IMF chief Dominique
Strauss-Kahn on Sunday after he made an uncomfortable return to
the political scene in the delicate final days of a presidential
The party's presidential candidate told him bluntly to stay
out of the campaign after London's The Guardian newspaper
published an interview with him, and leading Socialists said
they walked out of a weekend drinks party in Paris when they
heard Strauss-Kahn was due to attend.
In the interview, published on Friday, Strauss-Kahn
suggested his political foes had torpedoed his presidential bid
by making sure his now infamous sexual encounter with a New York
hotel maid last May was made public.
"Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not involved in the presidential
campaign ... and so he should not reappear in any form until
this campaign concludes and I hope concludes successfully,"
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande told Canal+ television.
Hollande leads conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy by
around 10 percentage points in opinion polls, after beating him
into first place in an April 22 first round, but his campaign
team is keen to avoid any upsets ahead of next Sunday's runoff.
The interview was an unwelcome reminder for Socialists of
the dramatic downfall of the man who was initially the runaway
favourite to win their presidential nomination.
It prompted Sarkozy to challenge Strauss-Kahn to take his
allegations to a law court or remain silent.
New York prosecutors eventually dropped criminal charges
against Strauss-Kahn, who insisted the incident was consensual,
but the scandal forced his resignation from the IMF and brought
his political career to a halt, heralding a series of
revelations about the former finance minister's private life.
He has since been placed under formal investigation for
possible involvement with an alleged prostitution ring based in
the northern French city of Lille.
Socialist member of parliament Julien Dray shocked party
heavyweights by inviting Strauss-Kahn to his birthday drinks in
a Paris bar on Saturday without informing them, prompting
several of them to walk out when they learnt of his arrival.
"Luckily, I did not find myself face to face with him. I
left because it is out of the question that I should meet that
gentleman, simply out of respect for women's rights," said
Segolene Royale, the unsuccessful Socialist candidate for the
2007 presidential election and Hollande's former partner.
"Dominique Strauss-Kahn is totally undesirable in this
campaign," she said.
Hollande's campaign manager Pierre Moscovici, a former ally
of Strauss-Kahn's, also said he left the drinks party as the
one-time Socialist finance minister arrived.
A spokesperson for Strauss-Kahn said he had not given an
interview to The Guardian.
A spokesperson for the daily said it stood by its story and
the comments were made during a two-hour interview with
investigative journalist Edward Epstein, who it said had told
Strauss-Kahn his remarks would be published in the newspaper.
Manuel Valls, a spokesperson for Hollande who was formerly
close to Strauss-Kahn's moderate Socialist grouping, said at the
end of an Hollande rally in Paris that the party needed to turn
the page on the incident. "Dominique Strauss-Kahn is out of the
campaign and has no reason to come back."
(Reporting By Daniel Flynn; editing by Philippa Fletcher)